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Take the Long View


It’s a lot easier to make additional sales to existing clients than it is to get new customers. I'm often amazed when I talk to entrepreneurs – they can tell you all about their lead generation and customer capture processes; however, as soon as I ask them about account development, they freeze. Account development is one of the most overlooked (and vital) aspects of running a successful business, and your revenues will skyrocket if you develop and follow a strategic plan to improve what is called the “lifetime value of the customer.”


Take solar sales, for example. You sell solar panels to a customer, and the panels are going to last 25-30 years. Maybe they’ll need to buy a replacement inverter five years down the road, and assuming they still remember you, they may ask you to replace it. However, are you going to wait for that service call, or wait until they need new panels in 25 years? You’ll likely be retired by then! Instead, you should collaborate with one or more noncompetitive vendors in energy efficiency to bring that customer (and all your other ones!) every efficiency solution under the sun (pun intended).  By the way, it goes the other way as well… An efficiency customer could easily become a renewable energy customer provided the transition is handled strategically.

In order to make a customer into a client, you really have to understand that there’s a path to chart what services they could be buying from you and where they start in the chain. If someone wants a new air-conditioning system because they think their building is too hot, a sales professional tuned to look for other opportunities would certainly not limit the investigation to the AC. 

What recommendations would you make if you discover that in addition to having an obsolete and inefficient AC system, they’re using twice the watts per square foot that they should be for lighting? An “AC salesman” would disregard the lighting and try to sell that prospect a new AC system. A sales professional would certainly include the lighting retrofit in the discussion for at least two reasons. First, a lighting upgrade that reduces connected load (and associated heat) often makes a smaller AC system possible. Second, lighting upgrades often feature more attractive financial returns than AC replacements, which means that if the lighting and AC upgrades were combined into a single project, it would be easier to build a compelling case for approval.

The moral of the story? Rather than seizing the first opportunity to do business with a prospect, slow down and take the longer view. Doing so will not only increase your revenues, but also ensure that your prospects will turn into lifelong clients instead of one-time customers.

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Read more blogs on Sales Success, Business Tips, Recession Selling

Posted by Mark Jewell